Thursday, 20 March 2014

Turning a Convenient Blind Eye to the Ukrainian Ultra-Nationalist Right.

One of the most lamentable parts of British coverage of events in the Ukraine has been the way those such as Timothy Garton Ash have indulged in the very 'whataboutery' they accuse hard line defenders of Putin's Russia of doing in order to deflect any short comings in western foreign policy

In The focus is on Crimea, but next is the fight for Ukraine.( Guardian Tuesday 19 2014 ), Ash concedes that Crimea is lost to Ukraine. He then proceeds to see the Russian takeover of Crimea by 'special troops' and the referendum to join Mother Russia as a sign of Putin's pseudo-democratic use of 'political technology' to provide a specious version of democracy.

Yet criticisms of Putin aside, the simple fact is that Putin is a practitioner of realpolitik in the manner more of Bismarck and not with Hitler of Stain ( as many foolishly do ). Putin is an expert at using western double standards as a means to legitimise his own 'reactive' strategies to 'western imperial projects'

The one problem is Ash fixates on Putin and Russian nationalism. The one vital question that Ash evades is the rise of the Ukrainian far right whose influence has surged western Ukraine and, through Svoboda and Right Sector, gained positions in the interim government.

Not once in this article does Ash even draw attention to them or their rhetoric. Drawing attention to the very real prominence of the west Ukrainian ultra-nationalists ( streets in Lviv are named after wartime fascists such as Stepan Bandera ) seems to spoil the idealistic notion this must be a 'People Power' uprising.

Instead he refers , in weaselly language, of tensions 'exacerbated by some foolish words and gestures from victorious revolutionaries in Kiev'. No mention of the undoubted prominence of Svoboda once in this article which glosses over that the better to focus only what Putin has been doing.

There is evidence of Svoboda members intimidating and beating journalists and TV bosses in Kiev.
Members of Svoboda barged their way into the offices of Aleksandr Panteleymonov, the acting president of the National Television Company of Ukraine on Tuesday night.They were angry that public broadcaster, First National Channel, had broadcast the Russian Parliament signing a treaty with Crimea on Tuesday. Yelling and beating Panteleymonov around the head, the men accused him of serving Putin, while there were Ukrainians “dying at the hands of Russian occupiers” and called him “Moscow trash.”They then forced him to sign a letter of resignation.Ironically, one of the men involved in the assault was the deputy head of Ukraine’s committee on freedom of speech.Members of the Svoboda party filmed the attack and then posted it online. Ukraine’s prime minister has condemned the incident calling it “unacceptable for a democratic society.”
Putin was only able to exploit pro-Russian nationalist sentiment because the new government banned Russian as an official language. The danger is that the elections could well see in emboldened far right make gains should the oligarchs in Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party fail to rein in the Svoboda ideologues and Right Sector thugs.

Ash should be calling for the EU to formally distance itself from Svoboda. Crimea is lost to Ukraine. The question is now what will happen in the southern and eastern areas of Ukraine and if the interim government botches up and tries to play a Ukrainian nationalist card to win votes in the May elections things could go badly wrong.

If economic conditions deteriorate, the far right could be posed to take advantage as Euromaidan liberals are week and lack prominence. Svoboda have been able to exploit the anger of rural Galicians at far off Kiev and Russian influence as being under the influence of Russian-Mafia-Jews. As Svoboda has ready made 'answers to why Ukraine is degenerating.

As Business Insider reports,the leader of Svoboda,
Tyahnybok has also claimed that “organized Jewry” dominate Ukrainian media and government, have enriched themselves through criminal activities and plan to engineer a “genocide” upon the Christian Ukrainian population. Another top Svoboda member, Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, a deputy in parliament, often quotes Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, as well as other Third Reich luminaries like Ernst Rohm and Gregor Strasser.
There is more,
'Svoboda seeks to end all immigration and ensure that all civil service jobs are filled by ethnic Ukrainians. ....Svoboda also seeks to ban abortions, abolish gun control, “ban the Communist ideology,” and prohibit the adoption of Ukrainian children by foreigners. In addition, Svoboda reportedly supports nuclear power (in the homeland of Chernobyl) and reinstatement of the death penalty.

Limiting its membership to ethnic Ukrainians, Svoboda also had links to a paramilitary organization called Patriots of Ukraine, which has also stepped into the current imbroglio, leading charges against anti-riot police and shouting nationalist slogans like “Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!” and “Ukraine above all!”
Svoboda glorifies fascist figures and related slogans from Ukraine’s past – on New Year’s Day, 15,000 Svoboda members and their followers marched in honor of controversial Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera, who fought against the Soviets during the Second World War and had ties to Nazi Germany. His Ukrainian Insurgent Army allegedly took part in the massacre of thousands of Ukrainian Jews and Poles. Tyahnybok has repeatedly sought inspiration from Ukrainian insurgents who fought in World War II. “They did not fear, but took up their automatic rifles, going into the woods to fight Muscovites, Germans, Jewry and other filth which wanted to take away our Ukrainian nationhood. It’s time to give Ukraine to the Ukrainians,
It would be more refreshing if Ash could, at least, be a bit more intellectually honest about the failings of the EU and West in turning a blind eye to the very real power and influence of ultra-nationalists in the west in power bases such as Lvov and Ivan Frankivsk

Since the beginning of the 2000s, Russian speakers have been attacked and beaten in the streets. During 2012 they cave captured up to 40% of votes in the Lviv oblast. It at present occupies 36 seats in the 450-member Ukrainian parliament, granting it status as the fourth-largest party in the country.

Ash, though, seems intent on self peddling over the existence of the Ukrainian far right as much as the Kremlin is exploiting it in its simplistic 'fascist coup' propaganda to an absurd extreme to deny that Euromaidan was made of various groups not of all whom were fascists. May were not.

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